Polaris: AKA The North Star

May 9, 2019

Polaris is the proper name for what is often referred to as the North Star. For several thousand years it has served as a signpost in the sky and points northward to all those who view it. Of all the stars it is unique because it appears to be almost stationary in the sky while all the other stars appear to rotate around it.

Credit Blaine Dickey

Polaris is about as close to the north celestial pole as it will ever get. The celestial pole is an imaginary line passing from the South Pole of the earth thru the North Pole and then extending onward towards the starry background. Because our earth wobbles slowly like a top, Polaris will slowly be replaced as the North Star by the Star Vega in about 12 thousand years. Then after another 12 thousand years, it will again assume its rightful place as our North Star.

During the month of May, the big dipper rides high in the northern sky directly above Polaris in the early evening. By drawing an imaginary line through the two end stars Merak and Dubhe on the bowl of the big dipper and then downward you will find Polaris about halfway up the northern sky.

Polaris belongs to the constellation Ursa Minor and helps form a small asterism called the little dipper.